I’m the sort of sports fan who loves it when a drunken streaker runs on to the cricket field or a rogue pigeon stops play at Wimbledon, so you can imagine my excitement when Uruguay forward Luis Suarez took a cannibalistic turn for the worse and bit into the shoulder of Italian player Giorgio Chiellini during this week’s World Cup game.
And I wasn’t the only one to react; social media was quickly buzzing with witty one-liners, images and memes from brands looking to score with this real-time marketing opportunity.
I’ve noticed a few groans and grumbles from some who don’t think brands should align themselves with such unsportsmanlike conduct, or who think the jokes were old and tired before they were even sent out. But I am not one of these people.
I love real-time marketing. It makes me more excited than those tennis playing pigeons.
Companies, unsurprisingly, want to protect their brands and reputations. All too often in the marketing world though, this can lead to potentially brilliant ideas being shot down and creative campaigns being delayed. Spontaneity, personality and resourcefulness lose out to predictability, brand guidelines and planning.
Taking advantage of real-time marketing opportunities doesn’t mean throwing out the rule book all together and doing something so ridiculously controversial that you ruin your business’ reputation forever. What it does mean is trusting your marketing, advertising and PR teams to be able to make a call, produce creative content and present it to the world in a way which makes your target audiences sit up, take note, and smile.
I completely understand why many are hesitant and nervous about real-time marketing, but it would be great if more businesses were braver, acted quicker and took advantage of these opportunities.
And it’s not just the companies that took a bite of the recent Suarez action that we can learn from, there are some other good examples that have caught my attention over the last couple of years:
After photographs of Prince Harry playing strip billiards in Las Vegas were leaked in the press, Lynx took out an ad in the Sun on Sunday, apologising if it had been a consequence of ‘the Lynx Effect’.
German lingerie company, Blush Berlin, took advantage of the Edward Snowden scandal by cheekily name dropping him into one its ads.
And my personal favourite – when a man named Thomas Cook asked the holiday company that he shared a name with for a free holiday as compensation for being ‘ridiculed’ for his name, he got turned down. But then rival travel firm lowcostholidays.com spotted an opportunity, swooped in and saved the day. Not only a brilliant example of real-time marketing, but also brand one-upmanship.